Over the course of three years, from 2018 to 2021, portrait photographer and Hackney resident Jenny Lewis documented a century of life in the form of 100 tender portraits, her subjects ranging from a new-born to a centenarian. Reflecting and celebrating the many nationalities, identities, genders, ages and perspectives that make up this diverse pocket of London, Lewis’s honest and compelling portraits – of refugees and retirees, adolescents and allotmenteers, aspiring and failed rock stars, alongside pigeon racers, jewellers, cobblers, barbers, new mothers, brothers, sons and daughters – present 100 unique lives and their personal stories.
Tracking down her subjects in youth groups, yoga classes, residential homes, sports clubs, and neighbours, as well as on Instagram, in local GP surgeries, and by word of mouth, Lewis has created a powerful collective portrait of both our past and future. Her vibrantly coloured portraits, taken in intimate domestic spaces or places that hold personal significance for the sitter, portray her subjects staring gently and at times defiantly into the camera.
The cumulative effect of Lewis’s encyclopaedic project is commemorative and intensely emotive, capturing lives in the process of being lived while underscoring our own mortality. As Lewis has said: ‘I’ve always thought the ordinary is pretty extraordinary, so I hope the series will encourage people to take notice of who is around them, to give people time to appreciate the resilience and richness of the human experience.’
“The only rule about ageing, it seems, is that there are no rules about ageing. Just look at the number of brisk, bright faces in their eighties and nineties, or at the wise, knowing ones in the early pages of the book. As for things like contentment and loss, pain and growth – well, they come and go as they please.
Perhaps it is the opposition between the tremendous scope of this project, and the close-up idiosyncrasies of the lives it contains, which makes it so potent. 100 fragments, cut from their context. The first lines of 100 stories. But oh, what stories. To look into their eyes, and to hear all that they have chosen to share, is to feel let in on the best kind of secret.”
Text extracted from Lucy Davies foreword.